By Colin Simpson
The UAE is poised to play a vital role in saving a rare African antelope from extinction through plans to establish a captive breeding programme in the region.
The eastern or mountain bongo is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It survives in just one isolated area in central Kenya.
Fewer than 100 animals remain in the wild, and they are threatened by poaching and logging.
Experts are holding talks about the proposed breeding programme in Dubai. There are 20 specimens in the region and 18 of these are in private collections in the UAE, so the participation of collectors here would be vital to the success of the venture.
The programme would involve sending animals between the wildlife centres to breed to boost the genetic strength and diversity of the captive population and increase the total number of animals.
The long-term aim would be to release captive-bred bongo in the wild. Experts believe if the wild population does not increase to at least 300 the species will die out within 20 years.
"We hope to get agreement on a regional collection plan," said Dr David Mallon, co-chair of the IUCN's specialist antelope group. "This is a technical term for managing all the bongos in the different collections in the region together, and the UAE is crucial. More....